Monday, March 16, 2009

Art Walk Weekend (for MandT!)

We stayed in town this past weekend to attend an art opening on Friday night and to catch up with some of the local galleries. I also had my Art of Outrage podcast on my mind. Having done this on an almost monthly basis for the past couple of years, I decided recently to cut back on the time that it requires and post instead every two months or so. It's past time for me to be recording a new episode, and I found what looked like the ideal opportunity in a new exhibition at the Hammer Museum, Nine Lives: Visionary Artists from L.A. I was attracted initially by a flier with an image from the artist Llyn Foulkes, whose highly idiosyncratic and uncompromising work I have admired for decades. I have a telephone interview with him scheduled for later in the morning today, and am looking forward to my first opportunity to actually meet him.

More of that exhibition later, or on my podcast later this month. From the Hammer, we drove on down to L.A. Louver Gallery in Venice to see "Poltergeist," a new show by the artist Rebecca Campbell. I have known her work chiefly as a painter until now: in the past, she has used often large canvases to recall moody scenes from a strict Mormon background that evoke all the inner emotional conflicts of childhood. Drawing on that same fertile resource in her current exhibition, she expands her medium to include the installation itself: the visitor crosses the threshold through a pair of wide front doors, brought in from the artist's childhood home in Utah and surrounded by a "wall" of individually painted "bricks"--each one a tiny painting in itself.

The "wall" has a nice title of its own: "I'll Huff and I'll Puff." The wolf at the door of childhood!

Inside, the visitor is greeted by the spreading branches of an actual tree, its trunk and limbs fiberglassed and covered with a layer of black velvet, its branches settles by a colony of charming bluebirds made from glass.

Nearby stands a floor-to-ceiling installation that looks at first sight like a hologram, home to a glittering swarm of golden bees.

Closer inspection reveals that each of these tiny sculptural elements is strung on a single one of hundreds of nylon threads, creating a shimmering, cylindrical chamber that hums with concentrated energy. Elsewhere,

the large-scale painting of a girl-child is installed as a kind of altarpiece, (the above, clearly, is not an installation shop) with a wooden railing surround and shag carpet designed to suggest gradated steps into the shrine...

To enter into the space that Campbell has created here is to step out of "our" time and into hers, an imaginary space-time continuum that combines experience, memory and imagination into a seamless, magical environment which is at once very real in its physicality and yet, at the same time, clearly of the mind. The visitor is invited to find a path in the mind-space of a human being who is at the same time wholly other and wholly ourselves. It's an Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass experience that I found quite enchanting.

We saw a good deal more on our rounds--too much to mention here. The state of art in Los Angeles is still vital, despite a "market" in the doldrums. A good time, then, for art, if not for the comfort of artists. I do want to mention, though, as a lover of this medium, two painting shows that I found different and bracing. Both artists are playing in the wide-open area between representation and abstraction, inviting us to join them in exploring the infinite possibility of meaning and tantalizing us into the journey with gorgeous, restless surfaces and textures. The first, at Angles Gallery in Santa Monica, was a bravura display of work by the Bulgarian-born artist Iva Gueorguieva. Here's one of hers called...

... "After The Boy Takes Everything", 2008, in crylic, oil stick, casein and collage on clayboard. It's a big painting, 45 x 50 inches, chock-a-block with activity and colorful play. The figure of the boy emerges clearly as the central image, and what goes on behind--as in many of these paintings--is somewhere between apocalypse and science fiction fantasy, nightmare and dreamscape. Along with the sheer virtuosity of paint, here's plenty of humor here, and oddly assorted narrative threads, if you look for them. An adventure for both mind and eye.

The second painter, at Thomas Solomon Gallery in Chinatown, is Brad Eberhard. Here's a big painting of his...

...entitled "UN Interpreter", 2009, oil on canvas over panel, 36 x 48 inches. It's a fine example of the way in which Eberhard uses color to divide up the surface of the canvas, creating images that, here, refer to the flags of many imagined nations and, overall, of the globe itself. I love the historical reference to Paul Klee, that Swiss painter of the early 20th century whose whimsical-seeming paintings held the bite of irony and the embrace of the universe in small. Read this one, if you will, as a vision of harmony in a world that too often lacks it.

And then there's our friend Kim McCarty, whose opening at Kim Light Gallery we attended Friday night. In her recent work, Kim has been using the difficult medium of watercolor to evoke images of children, male and female, on the cusp of blossoming into adolescence. They are risky, too--always flirting with the onset of sexuality. The children she paints are naked, vulnerable, open to exploitation and yet, importantly, manage to assert their innocence. They run the risk of provoking the viewer's inappropriate prurience, and at the same time ask us to think about our vulnerability, as children, to the adult world.

I was happy to see that Kim is also opening a new path for herself, in applying the same watercolor techniques to plants and flowers. Here's one of her irises:

The presence of these paintings alongside those of many of those depicting chldren sheds a good deal of light upon the latter. The pictures, like the medium in which they are painted, are all about evanescence and entropy, the moment of stasis and the moment of change, a freezing of time that never seems quite frozen, still in flux. There is a tenderness to this work, a feeling of compassion that we share because we, too, are subject to the continuing, inevitable flow of change that we experience in our lives.

There would be more, if there were more time. For now, I need to get myself ready for that interview. Have a great week!


Anonymous said...

That's wonderful. Locally we have a First Fridays program where local artists and bands showcase their work. I'm planning on going the next warm first friday of the month we get.

mandt said...

Yea! Delightful....

mandt said...

PS. That watercolor technique is exquisite---reminds me of the Japanese 'tarashikomi' so skillfully utilized by the Rimpa school.